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Friday, June 5, 2015

May 23 - June 5: Whale Sightings Update!

I've gotten behind on sharing whale sightings from the last two weeks! So here's a mega catch up all in one go.

On May 23rd, I saw J-Pod head north in Haro Strait....

The J17s off Land Bank's Westside Preserve
...and a couple of paddle boarders got a little more than they bargained for!

He gives you an idea of just how big J31 Tsuchi is!

Js spent the next bunch of days way up north, but I caught them when they cruised back south on May 28th.

J37 Hy'shqa swims by the rocks at Lime Kiln
On the morning of June 3rd, some of L-Pod showed up! Js were back up north, but the L4s, L47s, and L95 did the westside shuffle throughout the day. This is the same day some of L-Pod showed up in inland waters last year, and the first time they've been "in" since they were heard on the hydrophones with K-Pod the night of January 8th. I caught them off the west side first thing in the morning.

L27 Ophelia and L82 Kasatka in Haro Strait on the morning of June 3rd
J-Pod was a day late for their date with Ls. They came FLYING down from the north, traveling from Qualicom Beach to Lime Kiln (over 100 miles) in about 24 hours. They went porpoising past Lime Kiln in the afternoon on June 4th, but Ls had apparently already left as they weren't seen that day.

J41 Eclipse and her son J51 cruise past Lime Kiln on June 4
It's hard to photograph porpoising whales, so I tried taking a few wide angle shots
Some of the whales were way offshore, including this breacher
When Js didn't come back up on the evening of June 4th, I figured it could be a good early morning on the west side. After being overcast for a bunch of days the sun was finally shining first thing in the morning. When I got out to Lime Kiln at 7 AM, Js were in the middle of passing by. These are some of my favorite moments: those mornings when the water is glassy calm, the light is stunning as the sun just peaks over the island, and all is quiet except for the sound of whales breathing. No boats, no people....just me and the whales.

J45 Se-Yi'-Chn and J31 Tsuchi

J26 Mike
J36 Alki and her son J52
The whales were very spread out and traveling very slowly - for a long time after they passed I could still see them just milling off the point to the north of the lighthouse. Finally it seemed like they were heading north, so I went up to San Juan County Park since it looked like they were getting closer to shore. Many of the whales had grouped up and were just milling off the park up there, with the Olympic Mountains in the background.

While I was there, they turned and started heading back south. So much for breakfast! Back to Lime Kiln :)

A tender moment between J37 Hy'shqa and her younger brother J45 Se-Yi'-Chn
While Hy'shqa and her brother Se-Yi'-Chn were rolling around together, Hy'shqa's son J49 T'ilem I'nges was hanging out with his aunt J40 Suttles. T'ilem I'nges ended up right in the middle of the fray while J26 Mike decided to pursue Suttles with amorous intentions!

J26 Mike and his "sea snake" going after J40 Suttles (you can see the little dorsal fin of T'ilem I'nges to the left of Mike's pec fin)

J26 Mike lifts J40 Suttles out of the water
J26 Mike lunges after J40 Suttles
As you can see, it's been a pretty good couple of weeks for orca sightings! I thought I had better take this chance to catch up on sharing photos here, in the hopes that there are many more whale encounters to come!

One more startling observation from this morning....I knew there wasn't a lot of snow this winter, but it was amazing to see how little snow was on the Olympic Mountains across the way. Indirectly this is bad news for our salmon-eating whales. Snow melt provides crucial water for spawning salmon, and without enough water in the streams, salmon returns will be low.

Not much snow on the Olympic Mountains in June


Unknown said...

Wasn't J26 pursuing L92 Kasatka a few months ago? Mike may be bringing back the Southern Residents all by himself!

jennicwatt said...

Monika, your pictures are amazing! I really enjoy them. But I was wondering if you have any pictures that showcase J40 "Suttles" a little bit more. She is one of my favorites, but does seem a bit elusive. Thanks!